For our next activity, we would be releasing things. We would do this through a ritualistic piercing. If we’d never pierced anyone before it was fine, because we got a crash course in how to do so safely. If we’d never been pierced before, we were encouraged to step outside of our comfort zones and give all that we could to the experience. I had been pierced just once before and even when that happened I knew about the ritual of release and had attempted to do so on my own and failed miserably.
As we gathered around the Shaman that was performing the ritual, people were in a state of undress. We would be piercing our chests and therefore we should not be wearing clothing that would hinder the process. I do not like being in any state of undress before an audience of more than one, usually. Also, I told my slave that I may not participate in this particular activity simply because I had done this before and it hadn’t worked and, as well as that, I am often working on releasing the demons that once had any amount of control over me. I spend quite a bit of time revisiting things from my past and working through them to release them. I didn’t think I needed this activity at all.
I stood my ground as the drums were rolled out, keeping my MAsT shirt on as everyone else was standing bare-chested. I stood my ground as the first few people stepped up and received their first — and often times second — needle. I watched and I held space and I chanted and I supported every decision to take a needle but I still didn’t feel the need to receive one myself.
Until the Universe spoke.
As another was receiving a piercing, I had this “knowing” inside of me. The same knowing that I’ve discovered to be the voice of the Universe. There are never words spoken. The sentence always just comes across in one flash. I don’t hear it word for word or even see it word for word. The entirety of the message is there, inside of me, just like anything else I would just know.
You will be getting pierced.
I remember sighing inwardly but before I could even finish the breath I also knew who was going to do my piercing.
Part of the ritual was simply to ask the Universe if anyone was called to pierce the person asking to give release. There were no pairs made up beforehand. Sometimes a person who wanted to be pierced would have to wait a very long moment before anyone would step up. At least once I was afraid no one was going to step up at all and we would have to default to the person who taught us piercings.
For a moment, I felt some reassurance. In my mind, this person was incredibly experienced with needles which was precisely what I was going to need. The only problem that I was facing after that was I wasn’t quite sure what I thought I needed to release. I should have realized that would come to me in a matter of time as well.
When the leader asked who was called to release something a few people later, I heard my voice answering. My voice answered without me even realizing I was speaking. I had a moment of hesitation and then removed the armor that I had been wearing, exposing my pale skin to my tribe once more. I walked slowly to the middle of the circle and waited for the next part of the ritual to take place, where they ask who is called to pierce this person. Me. Who felt a strong enough connection that they were called by the Universe to pierce me.
I took a shaky breath and held it. The person that I knew was going to pierce me raised their hand and stepped forward.
My breath escaped me. I felt like there was a light shining around that person as they stepped forward with a smile and seemed to try to calm me. I spoke in a low voice because for me now, this part of the ritual was for me. That was important. For me. I had to do what I knew was best for me, regardless of what anyone else thought. I remember that my voice sounded nervous to me as I told them that I was going to need the bigger needle. They nodded and said they could do that for me.
There were two sizes of needles for us to choose from that they announced before we began: 21 and 14. Most went with 21. 21 is nice, small needle that will do the trick nicely. I knew that I’d had that size when I was pierced before and it simply did not hurt. If I was going to let go of things that had been weighing me down, holding me back, I was only going to be able to let them go on the wings of pain. A 21 gauge needle certainly was not going to hurt me, despite the fact that I know I do not handle pain well at all.
The person piercing me rested their hand on my chest, sized up where they were going to pierce, pinched, sterilized, and then shoved the needle through before I could change my mind.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of the pain, I was focused elsewhere. I couldn’t watch the person piercing me. I couldn’t quite focus on my tribe, though I could see them right ahead of me, circling me, supporting me, holding space for me. I could only see the person that was working the drum. I could only hear the heartbeat of the drum. I could only focus on the connection coming from there straight into my body and as the person piercing me touched needle to skin, the drummer was connecting with me, feeling me, and playing my anxiety and my braveness through the drum and I felt like I was soaring.
I flew. I was grounded and I flew at the same time. It hurt. The needle hurt so bad and I released shame. Shame over who I’ve been. Shame over who I am. Shame over the fact that I’ve ever had shame about who I am. Shame of my fetishes, shame for my hypocrisy that I always tell my partners to never be ashamed of their fetishes or sexuality. Shame, shame, shame, I wanted it out of my body and it went. It hurt. Letting go of something so painful hurt.
Then I wobbled. My knees felt like they were buckling under me so I stood still and listened to the drum. Then I took another deep breath and assured the person piercing me that I was going to take another needle. I had one more thing I had to release.
Also, I would have to have another big needle, if that was okay with them.
Oink, oink. Woof, woof, woof.
These were words of encouragement that I had quietly uttered in leather conferences when there were no words to show support better than Woof. To me, it’s almost like saying ‘I grok that’, only with feeling instead of knowing.
Doubt. Doubt, you have to go. I used to spend so much of my time doubting. Doubting that I was as authentic as I claimed to be. Doubting I was as capable as I know I am. Doubting I had the plan when I was truly certain I did. Doubting that I had attracted the right people to my life. Doubting I could provide for them in meaningful ways. I had to break up with Doubt. There was no room for it anymore. I had to move on.
The person piercing me rested their hand on my chest, sized up where they were going to pierce, pinched, sterilized, and then tried to shove the needle right through me but this time it did not go like butter. This time I needed to draw upon the strength of the drummer, of my tribe, to make it through. The needle felt stuck, like I wasn’t quite ready to give up doubting myself. Like I needed to hold onto it when I most certainly did not. Finally, it went through. I was pierced. A sigh of relief came from me and I stood for a moment, basking in the moment, before taking my place in the circle once more, ready to support my tribe, to hold space once again.
Once everyone had been pierced we sang. We reunited. We celebrated making it through the piercings and letting go of some serious weight. I finally looked down at my piercings and realized just how huge the needles were and laughed. My slave looked less amused, borderline ill, but he never did tolerate piercings well.
But the ritual wasn’t just about taking something. The ritual was also about putting something (better) back into us. This part went much faster as there was only one person who was going to take the needles out so we didn’t have to wait for anyone to be called to serve for this. When it came to me, I asked for the Universe to give me Self-Acceptance. I feel like those in my communities have accepted me without struggle. I feel as though they listen to how I present myself and respect me for who I am, no matter how outside of the norm I may or may not be. The only one who ever had issue with who I might be was me. I was tired of beating myself up over not being able to just belong where I “should” belong.
Then, bravely and somewhat foolishly I suspect, I asked the Universe to give me whatever It felt I needed for the next part of my journey. There were gasps. I was asking for so much, knowing so little of what I might get. Later on, my slave whispered to me how shocked he was that I asked for such and jokingly reminded me that he was along for the ride as well.
As we bandaged our bleeding wounds and listened to the drums fade, we all came back to the Butchmanns reality and quietly clothed and readied ourselves for a meal.
After the piercing activity and dinner and a nice talk together, we all parted ways to go home. All weekend long I was trying to eat healthier, in a more conscious way, not eating a lot of meat. I know that in some circles the food one consumes has a direct impact on the magic they are working and to me, in a way, Butchmanns was magic that I was working on my soul, so I was trying that idea out. By the end of a full day of Butchmanns though, what I really wanted was meat. Lots and lots of meat. So we had pizza with nothing but meat on it as a late night dinner when we got home together, the slave and I.
We were processing the day together, even though I didn’t have all the words I wished I had at the time. We started talking about the upcoming activity, the one that was going to be the hardest for me. I had proclaimed that I might not even be able to do it. I cannot have my body restricted. I do not like having my arms restricted at all. I dislike having my movement restricted so much that I dislike hugging people who ‘linger’. If I do finally allow someone to hug me and I try to pull away when I feel the ‘end’ of a hug and they continue to hold onto me, I flip my shit. Usually only internally. I panic. I start down the path of Fight or Flight. I also make note not to hug that person ever again.
So the idea of being wrapped up in saran wrap and duct tape did not amuse me. I didn’t see any therapy in this activity for me. I was afraid that participating would ruin my entire Butchmanns experience and I was afraid not participating would ruin everyone else’s experience because we all swore to give as much of ourselves as we could.
Deep down inside I was also terrified of having an episode. I was afraid of having a breakdown, a meltdown. I was afraid of crying in front of everyone. I was afraid of calling out for help. I was afraid of swearing or being angry or just generally of showing any unrestrained emotion in front of people, in front of my slave. I was afraid of losing my shit, basically.
“Unless,” I heard myself saying, again, like it wasn’t even me speaking. Unless it was this one particular person that wrapped me.
And boy did the name I said surprise me.
This was a person I knew of but was not a person I knew. This was a person I hadn’t even finished deciding how I felt about that I was naming. If it was that one particular person, I think I could do it. Maybe. It was my best chance of participating.
So my slave suggested that I talked to the facilitators and explained the issue that I was having and that I request that I have this person wrap me. I refused. I explained that this was about receiving what I needed from the Universe, trusting in the Universe, and that if I went in and had that arranged, I wasn’t giving the Universe any kind of chance. I couldn’t do that. I would just have to go in and play it all by ear.
We slept. We woke. We had breakfast with the tribe. We gathered, we greeted, we got down to business.
We were encouraged to be naked for the mummification. I railed against this. Again, another point that was making my case for me of why I shouldn’t be participating. I don’t want to be naked in front of people. I don’t want to share my body in that way. I’ve never been naked in public and I couldn’t see this being my first experience for it at all.
I was assured I didn’t have to be naked but if I was mummified, I was going to sweat. I was going to be drenched in sweat by the time we were done. If I’d brought a change of clothes, right down to my panties, then I could change later and have the rest of the day be comfortable, but if I didn’t — and I didn’t — I was going to want to seriously consider being naked. For my comfort. For my sake.
It’s not like you have anything no one else has. And I remembered my mother saying that to me as a child when I had to change in front of her. I didn’t like it then and I didn’t like it now.
I went to the bathroom. No one had any idea how long we were going to be wrapped up in saran wrap and if I was going to do this, I didn’t want to have to be busted out early because of my bladder. Then I had to go again, because I was nervous. Then we starting talking about the different teams of wrappers. There were about four of them. Everyone would help. We’d start with some of the larger people first so there was plenty of help and that way when they were only down to four people in the end, it could be done easily.
I helped wrap. I was okay with wrapping. I still hadn’t decided if I was going on this journey or not. If I was going, I wanted to go last. I wanted to watch everyone else get wrapped. I wanted to see them brave and relaxed. I wanted to bear witness to their journeys. That felt important to me.
As soon as I was done helping wrap, as I was heading down to help again, a voice called out loudly to wrap Master Aki next. It took me a brief moment to realize that was me they were suggesting to be wrapped next. I hadn’t even committed to being wrapped.
Then that one person in particular that I had said I would allow to wrap me spun around, looked me dead in the eye, and said “Okay”.
The lights were dim. There was one single drum going, but it wasn’t being played by our drummer. Instead, a volunteer to help keep the atmosphere. The drummer did turn and remind them at one point ‘Like a heartbeat’ and I heard the rhythm change from erratic to a soothing, smooth, ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump.
The heartbeat was quickly drowned out by the sound of those working around me. I had undressed with some hesitation. My slave folded my clothes for me and set them aside with such care. I stood naked before this tribe, before these people wrapping me, and no one said a thing. No one cared. There was no better reassurance for me than the fact that no one cared. There were no lingering looks, there was no look of judgement on anyone’s face. No one appeared to respect me less for removing my clothing.
Before I could think about it too much, I was quickly clothed again. Saran wrap, passed from the person the Universe gave me and my slave, front and back, twist and turn, front and back, twist and turn. And then, much to my surprise, there was someone holding my hair. Just holding my hair. And that felt divine. There was such a gentleness to it, such a care, ensuring that it didn’t get wrapped up in the saran wrap, so it wouldn’t pull.
Then the one wrapping me showed such concern for the necklace that I wear. I told them I wanted it wrapped inside the saran wrap, not against my skin, because I’m allergic to the metal. If I’m sweating, it will itch, and that is all I’ll focus on. And they did just that.
I chose to have the blindfold put on me before I was lifted. If I was going to be dropped, I didn’t want the last thing I saw to be the ceiling. I was shrouded in darkness. I felt hands on my body. I panicked for a moment. “Stiff as a board,” they told me. Light as a feather I am not. But these volunteers lifted me all the same. Lifted me, positioned me, put me on the massage table, and my hair was perfectly placed.
Then came the stillness.
I have trouble being still and trying to quiet my mind. Whenever I have a moment where I do not have to be focused or in the moment, I like to think about what is coming next. I want to plan. I want to run scenarios through my mental simulator so if I come across that event in my life I already know how to handle myself. I think about how I want to improve myself. I think about how to give a better direct command to my slave so that he can serve me efficiently and without confusion. I think about how I could be doing better at work and what long term improvements I want to make to my home. I think. That’s what I do. All the time. But I knew now was not the time to think. Now was the time to be still and to allow an experience or a message or something to come to me.
I heard a pigeon outside.
The drumming stopped.
The room was still.
I wonder if I could force myself on a journey for my animal guide while I lay wrapped up in this saran wrap.
My slave was next to me and I could hear him shuffling about, speaking lowly. I could hear the rest of the tribe being wrapped up. I could hear the facilitators letting us know they were there and would help us if we needed it but then they stopped speaking unless someone addressed them.
There was stillness all around me but there was no stillness in my mind.
Maybe I was done. Maybe that was my experience. After all, the only thing I was trying to combat was my fear of being restrained. I wanted to get over my dislike of touch from strangers. I wanted to trust, essentially. I did that. I came and I conquered it all! Maybe it would be okay to break out of this ‘cocoon’ as everyone kept referring to it as. Maybe there was nothing else for me here. I tried to attend with no expectations.
I was cold. This disturbed me because I felt I’d been tricked into getting naked. By now I was supposed to be doused in my own sweat, uncomfortable from the heat. Instead, I was freezing. I was freezing and wishing I’d kept my clothes on so I had some warmth.
Then I was gone entirely into a vision.
Just as my vision was ending, just as I was starting to hear the beat of the drum again, a facilitator gave a little snip to my wrapping. Now it was okay to break free. Now it was okay to come out and see my tribe once more. I struggled. I knew I would struggle. I was having a hard time getting through the many layers of saran wrap on my torso. My legs were free. I could sit up. But I didn’t think I could get out of my confines. I was going slow, tearing through one layer at a time, my fingertips pressing and probing for any weakness in the material. I was scared that if I just tried to tear through it I would rip my necklace from my neck.
My necklace is part of a pair. Calvin and Hobbes. Little boy and stuffie. Partners in crime. My slave wears the other. If I broke my necklace I felt I would be breaking a bond. I didn’t want to risk that. But I couldn’t get out. I was suffering. I wanted to call for help but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to disrupt anyone else. I sat up. I felt panic. But then I got it. I removed my blindfold and there were eyes on me and tears in the eyes of my slave who had been watching my struggle, who thought what I was doing was beautiful.
Then I dropped.
We ate together but I wasn’t there. We gathered in a circle but I wasn’t there. We parted to have different discussions in different groups and they pulled my slave away from me and I needed him at that point. The whole reason for him attending was for me to stay balanced, to put my energy into, my stuffed animal for when things got rough, and now he was half a room away — he was a whole world away.
I sat at the Masters’ table but I could see my slave from where I sat. I watched him participating and was happy that he did not seem to be as affected by the mummification as I was. I listened to the facilitators asking us what we needed to know where we were in our lives right now. I listened to others ask questions and I remember being upset. Upset! I was so upset that they were asking these questions and then I chided myself. They had every right to ask any question they wanted. These were important things in their lives. And yet, at the back of my mind, a voice was screaming, ‘None of this is important!’ and I stopped and wondered why. Why would I think that?
Finally we came together once more. A Heart Talk. We were to talk of our experience. We were asked how the mummification went for us and how we’d changed since the beginning of Butchmanns. I sat quietly as everyone shared their story of their mummification. Most of them were beautiful stories. I heard a lot compare the experience to being a butterfly with the mummification being a cocoon. Now that they’d emerged they had beautiful wings and they would use these new wings to soar through each new obstacle thanks to their participation in this Butchmanns.
But I sat agitated. I sat not entirely sure of what I was going to say when it came to me, when it came to me. I considered not sharing at all. But I had to. And soon enough it was my turn.
I felt my share was wholly inappropriate, I started, and seemed to have everyone’s attention. After that statement, I felt everything slowly sliding into place. I finally realized why I was so agitated. I understood the reaction that I had to the questions at the Masters’ table. I understood why I felt everything was so irrelevant.
Before, during the mummification, I didn’t quite realize I was actually having a vision. But now that I realized it, I shared it with the group:
I laid in the darkness listening to nothing but a person snoring. Except, to me, he wasn’t snoring. To me, he was on a ventilator.
I heard steps being taken, facilitators — doctors really, walking around, looking at every one of us. No one had any words. They were so solemn.
We were dead. One moment we’d all been together, alive, talking and sharing and exposing our most personal lives and thoughts and feelings to each other and then something happened — I don’t know what — and everyone was dead.
Then I heard crying. Soft, controlled crying. A little girl. There was a little girl in the room. Someone must have brought her. A doctor must have found someone’s information and contacted the next of kin and the next of kin brought this little girl into this room of death and she just couldn’t take it and she was crying. But this was sad, so I understood, and I ached with her.
They must have had to identify a body because the sobs got stronger, louder, the aching hurt me more, and finally at the swell of emotion she screamed out for her daddy and my heart broke in pieces. The desperation in her voice, the need for her Protector to be alive and well and ready to hold her hand again was stronger than anything I’d ever heard for myself before and no one was there to comfort her. Her words turned to sounds and then to babble and then carried away in the current of the emotion.
Finally, I heard the sound of a heartbeat — the drum. Ba-bump. … Ba-bump. Slowly. Impossibly slow. Impossibly slow but then it started to pick up and as the sound of the heartbeat started to pick up there seemed to be light and as there seemed to be light there was music and as there was music there was rejoicing and as there was rejoicing there was freedom. I was alive again.
As I shared this vision that I’d had with the group I was crying. Tears fell from my eyes faster than I could even think about them. They fell without me worrying what anyone would think of me crying.
And I continued explaining:
While everyone is talking about how wonderful the experience was and how beautiful their wings are, all I can think about is how you’re dead. How every single person that I came to Butchmanns with — my slave included — is dead. While everyone is celebrating life, I’m mourning the loss of all of these people that I once knew.
And once I said it I realized that I was mourning. These were not the people that I came to Butchmanns with at all. These people were new. Something had been awakened in them and had to come to the surface. A new strength rose within them and we all learned and grew so much that we couldn’t simply have it in addition to who we were — it could only take over who we once had been. We had each been reborn.
There was a pregnant pause after I concluded sharing my vision as I considered the second part of what I was supposed to be talking about.
How had I changed from when I started Friday evening, so few days ago? My trust in the Universe is much stronger. My trust in myself is so much stronger. I felt I’d received confirmation that I am on the right path.
Without my MAsT chapter, I don’t know that I would have ever been able to attend Butchmanns. Butchmanns was something that I’d known about for almost a decade, the first evidence that I had found that there were people out there like me. The promise of a M/s community was what kept me strong in my darkest days of sorting out who I really was and what I really wanted from my life.
The gift couldn’t have come at a better time either, as I was suffering from a lack of spiritual fulfillment. I had no idea that one weekend with these people could touch me in such a profound way.
And a very humble thank you to my slave who accompanied me not for his own journey but to assist me on mine.